Early morning thundershowers, lightning across the horizon. Blue mid-morning skies, yellow wheat, green trees. A noontime greyness: distant light illuminating a dark cloud-mass on light grey ground, horizonal scintillations. A flat mid-afternoon New Mexico field, its loamy soil, its sparse vegetation. As shadows lengthen: grey, scumble-swept saturations, high-blown cirrus, in eastward progression together. At 6:00 pm a bluish grey distance, near-ground variegated sparse rock-scatter, mid-ground telephone poles stretching east to west; changing-lights far-off flicker as dusk approaches, house-surrounding foliage still flutterng in the wind.
An eastward morning view: fringe of sunlit cumulus peeking out over a general grey, near dark-grey merging into wisps heading SW-SE. Downroad a grain elevator, a red beacon flashing atop it, the tower reading against a smoky background. To the south: a bank-elevated railway, its black track seated on dark, rain-moistened gravel. A grove of elms leans northward, their heady manes encumbering a view of the highway. At a crossroad, one sandy, rural branch leads southward toward a refinery, northward toward a train track. A yellow sign, its black “X” encircled by a thin black line, “R” in the eastern, “R” in the western interstices.
Ruts in muddy brown ascend the ridge to the rails. As author writes, a white truck, its “Toyota” in black, enters behind him, follows the course of the tracks, turns and bump-bumps over them, the pickup’s bed interior’s contents bouncing, its yellow New Mexico license plate in an abstract red sunburst. At the tracks it reaches a white “X,” whose lower left to upper right reads “CROSSING,” under which, “Rail” / “Road.” Beneath the “X” a “2,” beneath it in turn reads “TRACK.” A diagonally striped (red-and-white) armature stands at stiff attention as two blackened red lights begin to flash. On the opposite track-side a reverse-repeat.
Black asphalt road, yellow left-side, white right-side lines, center in white segments evenly spaced, white reflectors between them, the shoulder brown-, beige-, and cream-pebbled (together reading as rusty brown). To: darkening roadside grass. To: a John Deere (farm equipment) sales lot, its surface puddled with rain, building behind in brown stone work, overhead facing in beige-painted aluminum. Electric, inner-lit sign white-bordered, dew on its dark green ground. A steel pole in a lighter green. A front loader’s scoop rests on the asphalt; a yellow planter, its bed in dark green, its tires black, its wheels yellow.
Three green tractors with yellow wheels, enormous ribbed tires, black exhaust stacks. Harrows, disc ploughs, a combine with two attachments. The mid-morning sky has lightened to a uniformly mottled blue-grey-white, the western horizon lighter than the eastern. “COOKS” (in blue block letters on an inner-lit white ground) “Truck Center” (in white-on-red), (on a placard beneath) “RESTAURANT” (all on a white-painted stanchion, a bright floodlight illuminating the ensemble from above). A rain-soaked American flag flies from a pole, drooping at the edge of “COOKS.” “Coffee this morning?” asks the waitress. “Yes, please.”
The brown fluid arrives in a white cup, gold floral designs. “Menu this morning?” “Yes, please.” Tall, sepia-photo-covered production, American cars in white and brown: side view of a Corvette. White (tan) poles reaching to thirty feet, “RESTAURANT” (brown-on-white) between them, floodlight (in midday photo), opposite side of menu (reverse shot). White letters (darkened tan) of “Truck Center” on a deep brown ground. “COOKS” (dark brown) on a tan ground, deep-brown-bordered. The poles, extending to the menu’s top, bear a proud, erect, wind-stiffened American flag (brown and light tan stripes, brown, tan-studded star-field).
Brown ceiling (restaurant interior), earth-yellow walls, on which are brown-framed, black-and-white, early New Mexico photos. Wall-attached coat rack with gold hooks: on the first, a green-hooded, parka-sweater, on the last, an orange-hooded parka-sweater. Double overhead fans turning in synchronous motion, four brown wooden blades each, attached to a simulated-bronze suspension system, it to a burly wooden base. Two white globes beneath the two fans dimly illuminate the room, which a brightening grey sky is suffusing through four large-paned, aluminum-bordered, waist-high windows, their thin Venetian blinds drawn.
Four-client counter-group: (1) A middle-aged, paunchy, brown-on-tan-plaid-shirted, brown-rim-eyeglassed cowboy, straw cowboy hat (painted white), broad band, red feather (black-flecked). (2) A middle-aged black cowboy, in white (reading yellow-tan) shirt, white straw cowboy hat. (3) An older white man, in blue shirt, beige felt cowboy hat, black plastic eyeglass frames. (4) An elderly Indian man, beige shirt, brown cap, gold watch.
Through-back-window railway-siding-view: a white tanker car, eight black tanker cars in succession, hidden behind it a Santa Fe westbound approach, emergence, passage: a red-on-yellow first engine, a black second engine, a black-on-yellow, front-facing third engine, followed by car-cars, piggybacks, another tanker car, a freight car, a yellow-on-red Santa Fe caboose, followed by a white tanker car and, again, eight black tanker cars in succession.
In post-train serenity: a distant farm, faint-green-reading, through grey mist of tree-surrounded homestead, framed by middle-distant telephone-poles. Underscoring the scene are black and grey lines consisting of track and gravel, beneath which emerald, spring, roadside grass. To the east, further green upgrowth, beige tassels. A three-blackbird-flyby. A brown-earth, richly-moistened field. A huge white trailer truck passes another, turning into Cooks.
Famous last words: “I could have but didn’t.” Clovis approach, grain elevators, one painted white, the other in bare concrete, rising above this small city, home to a U.S. Air Force base. Hey Melrose!!! I was stationed there for four years before I retired in ’89 . . . and some people think I am nuts, but I liked it there. Besides the radio gig, I enjoyed the town and the Tex Mex food. Damn I miss Leal’s and Ranchers and Farmers.
Into author’s “MOTEL” / “PIONEER” (old-fashioned, “Frontier” lettering) enters a maroon Chevrolet sedan. “Singles from 13.95 up,” the “13.95” in red, other letters in black, on the golden ground of this portable sign, an arrow with a single bulb atop it indicating direction for entrance. “TVs Radios Phones.” I use [sic] to work at KICA (classic rock) when I was stationed there and when I went to college at Portales years later.
“COLOR TV” (“C” in red, first “O” in green, “L” in yellow, second “O” in blue, “R” in orange. Yes, it is true, they have no rock stations in town anymore. The old KICA really sucks nowadays. For a couple of years I did the Metal Shop on KICA!!! Second approach shot: photo of earlier sign art. “Thunderbird Drive-in Restaurant.” Cop car pass-by blip, double reds, double whites illumination. Metallic copper sedan, roadside ride-over.
You wouldn’t believe Prince Street, it is amazing how much is going on out there. The metallic copper sedan has parked by roadside. Storm, I admit I must agree with you, sure was fun cruisin’ back then. Arrow through boomerang above “Navaho”-style mosaic. Well I was shocked at how the Prince Street area is built up but sad about Main Street. In red tip, green feathers, white shaft. “Aztec Antiques / DRIVE / IN / WINDOW.”
“RES RANT” (in a state of being demolished). “CL SED.” I use to work at KZZO and we would cruise Main on Friday and Saturday nights, jammin’. Author, red Honda hood sit, Fina Station, Route 84 and Prince Street, downtown Clovis. Grew up Melrose, class of 1977. Main Street is where everything went down. Used to drag it back then, meet friends, or chicks, or just rock out and window shop. Strongly lit CCG grain elevator.
Made a lot of good friends from Clovis & all the other little towns who I might not have met if I hadn’t been on Main. Cloud shadowing its lower reaches. Great memories. Two more cylinders at rear on eastern side of elevator. Wind arising as sky fills with uniformly shaded grey. For sure I will never forget Clovis. Cylindrical 3 x 4 mass. Your buddy, RC. Rectangular tower atop it. Where now is [sic] the deep gutters at every stop light?
Temperature sudden ten-degree drop, hood of Honda still warm. Scene to eastward along 84: red-white-and-blue-painted ancient gas station. Brown brick, rust-painted boarded front, beige asphalt composition roof. “Sponsor an Air Commando Program Revived Just in Time for the Holidays.” “EL CHARRO” (red on white ground). “In the spirit of both Veterans’ Day and Thanksgiving, only us locals lookin’ for ways to support our troops.”
“Mexican Food” (black), sign situation in three-pronged Saguaro cactus, (pastel green) tin- enveloped, neon-embedded. “This program has been established to give airmen a chance to have a home away from home.” To: CCG corrugated silver oil depot (Ingram Bros. Oil Co.), Philgas truck, black-on-white tank, red cab. “While giving Clovis and Portales families an opportunity to support our airmen stationed at Cannon Air Force Base.”
Westward-Ho Motel, star atop elaborate ’50s-style neon, shaped-metal, electric-bulb-lit sign, opposite midtown Curry County Grain Co. elevators. “Karen Elton, wife of Wing Commander Col. Buck Elton, has made the Sponsor an Air Commando program one of her priorities.” Blue beginning to show behind westward-moving puffy white, grey under-bellied clouds. “Presently, there are over 30 airmen on the list waiting to participate.”
Breeze through window of idling Honda. “Anyone interested in Sponsoring an Air Commando.” Pneumatic hiss at after-8:00 am opening, Big O Tires. “Needs to fill out the attached survey and send it to the Clovis/Curry County Chamber of Commerce, 105 E. Grand, or fax to 763-7266, or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, please contact the Clovis/Curry County Chamber of Commerce at 763-3435.”
Asphalt of 84 drained clear of rainwater, still wet. Eastern emerging sunlight back of westward voyaging autos, yellow cab of silver-bellied tanker approaching. Across-from-author view (south side of Route 84): Inlaid masonry sandstone, large brownish block, then smaller stones, greys and beiges of Alamo Motel’s front, the motel itself abandoned. Four double entryways with tiled porches: green door, blue door; green door, blue door; green door, blue door; green door, blue door. Sandy gravel, concrete. Single white neon-embedded star, pastel green sign, white letters. Bend, above which: silver corrugated roofing.
“Welcome to the Internet home of the Norman and Vi Petty Rock and Roll Museum.” Rising from which, four white cylinders of CCG. “The physical home of the museum is downstairs from the ClovisCurry County Chamber of Commerce.” Clovis Ice and Produce, Moberly Moving and Storage, Guadalajara Restaurant, Tom’s Billiards. “At 105 E. Grand Avenue.” Davis St. and Grand: urban vacancies: yellow daisies at curbside, an unused trailer. “The museum is a block from the Mesa Theater.” Sun a bright quarter in cloud-packed sky above boarded-up storefronts. “Minutes away from the 7th Street studio.”
Neighborhood houses, maximum separation, minimal decoration: white boxes; brown boxes; beige boxes. A black man in a beige coat, blue-and-white Adidas sneakers, walks to left of author, Hispanic beauty, deeply saturated blue, pleated parka, black stretch pants, luxuriant blue-black hair, to right of him. Westward (Grant and Edwards): Garcia’s Butcher shop, adobe portals. Ice Machine (white), Dr. Pepper dispenser (maroon), parked out front, last of the CCG elevators (quadrangular towers with corner cylinders) rising above.
84 West panorama, Cannon AFB entrance (“Private Vehicles Prohibited Off Pavement”); author off-pavement pause. Crossroad “T” sign situation: black two-directional arrow on yellow ground (2’ x 6’), atop orange-on-white diagonal stripes merging into single orange triangle at base (2’ x 12’), over “Clovis” (preceded by arrow pointing eastward) and “Melrose” (followed by arrow pointing westward). Behind-sign shrubbery emergence:
(The host unit at Cannon is the 27th Special Operations Wing (27 SOW) assigned to the Air Force Special Operations Command. The 27 SOW plans and executes specialized and contingency operations employing advanced aircraft, tactics and air refueling techniques to infiltrate, exfiltrate and resupply special operations forces (SOF) and provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in close support of SOF operations.)
Honeysuckle, viburnum, a triple cypress stand, more distant trees. Author again parks on Cannon exit road, against regulations, to observe a complete carnival packed up in and on white trucks (orange featured designs with white interiors): RV campers in twos behind the trucks. Air Force jets flying at low altitude pass overhead, indiscernible in low-lying cloud cover. Author decides upon further 84 West progress, on out of the Clovis vicinity.
Landscape, roadside, road sign perspectival convergence: to left and right (south and north), low lying horizonal clouds surmounted by a blue field at 20 degrees. Clumps of homestead tree-surrounds, as red Honda progresses westward past brown ploughed spaces, sun-lit pasturage, railway track on the south side, barbwire on the north side, behind which black, beige and white cows grazing, all the way up to the roadside fence.
Fifty-more-yard distant double (non-identical) signs: left-side diamond (yellow) with right curving arrow (black), right-side diamond (yellow) with upward right-side vertical arrow, downward left-side vertical arrow, two-way highway indication. To right of which a clump of tall elms followed (to northward) by sparse clumps, ending in a single tree. To left, vacancy: green, brown, grey bands of landscape, distant-line-of-t-phone-pole-topped.
At center of scene: corrugated steel buildings, over-flown by four Air Force jets in formation. To right: conical-topped cylindrical mass, sun reflection at center, grey-shaded sides. To left: corrugated rectangular block. Bright sun on author’s page, sporadic raindrops spotting its orange ink. Rain continuation, author removal to car interior. Left rectangular corrugated building roof in rust stain, a white bridge connecting its mass to cone at right.
“Roadside Table / Litter Barrel / 1000 feet.” St. Vrain, NM observation. Three-building view from roadside table, grey-brown, weathered, wind whipping author’s page, causing post office flags to flap violently, bend pole. Four swallows, scissor-tailed, fly by author in elegant wind-assisted formation. Santa Fe double engine eastward-moving appearance, its end visible as engines approach from distant west. P.O. in white clapboard, shingled porch.
“Estimated population: 27.” Double door, double window flankage. “Sunshine Station” / “Sunshine Station” (southern front, southeastern front), white stucco-ed, blue bordered, its vacancy confirmed by four 6’ 8” mesquite trees growing in driveway. Doors flanked by windows. Between the two white buildings: a beige stucco-ed house. An elm, in a still heavily-gusting wind, wind-shaken, bridges the P. O. and it. More NE-progressing cloudiness.
Welcome to (black) Melrose (red), 12th St. and Denby Ave. (U.S. 84). Elev. 4599; Pop. 701. A (black) GOOD (red) PLACE TO LIVE (black), capital “I” in “LIVE” dotted.
Author parked, intersection highway and red dirt road, eight-foot cattle guards at stop sign. Requiring coffee, he heads for Leder’s Café and takes a stool in cramped quarters, customers bumping against him as they enter. The counter is spread with pages of The Thrifty Nickle (“Your free paper”), coffee cup, spoon, red plastic ice-water glass, author’s notebook, orange pen. “Why doncha go over to Grady’s, at least before you get paid?”
“Hello, George, how you doin’?” “I was goin’ out to his house.” “I was just waitin’ to see if you was gettin’ goin’.” “What did he say? . . .” “That’s what I thought he said. He was goin’ to set down an’ tell me to get up and get him somethin’. What would you do?” “I’d say, ‘Fuck you!’” Cupcake rack, “Prop. of Lance, Inc., Charlotte, NC.” “That little screw on the left side of the carburetor he said to make sure there warn’t too much gas and too little air.”
[Silence.] “I was just tellin’ you what he told me.” “Either it has some trash in it, or the hole for the float is stuck.” “That’s the only way you learn anything, by askin’.” “You take that line to the float and unhook it, and then the float will work.” “He comes in so many times and never asks me to get his coffee, and I get it. But when he comes in that way.” “Would you like some more coffee, sir?” — grandmotherly figure from kitchen surveying scene.
“Thank you.” Her running shoes, turquoise stretch pants, visible through half door, its top closed. “I’d like to have enough money to buy a Cadillac, but I hate Cadillacs, I like sportier lookin’ cars.” “That little Nash, it looks like a turtle turned upside down.” “ALASKAN MALAMUTE Puppy for sale.” / Two-bedroom rental. “I was lookin’ at that, and it was the weirdest movie that I ever seen.” 1982 CHEVY / WHIRLPOOL Washer Dryer.
“I gave it a bath in liquid D up to my shoulders.” SMALL AFFECTIONATE female dog and orange male cat. “And I thought that barrel had slipped back, and dad-gum it, it had slipped out and was bouncin’ across the highway.” 1978 SKYHAWK 3.8 liters, 5-speed. “Got a brand new un.” ADORABLE FERRET, 11 weeks-old, male. “Put a match to it and that was the end of it.” “SEEK GOOD, and not evil, that ye may live — Amos 5:14.”
Sign: “Please Come Back” (orange day-glow on black ground, white bordered). Another: “Words, keep ’em soft and sweet. You may have to eat them.” “No, I didn’t say I didn’t have a temper. I said it takes a lot to make me mad.” “Some of the things I’ve been hearin’ come back to me. I can’t believe what I hear.” “Like, ‘You and your husband been livin’ together?’” NICE MARE, age 15, Little Wrangler Winner. Phone 359 0616, $400.
“Is it true when you were born your parents was so poor you was barefoot and naked?” “I carry a credit card everywhere I go.” EMPLOYEE NEEDED for farm and ranch work. Must have experience. Excellent career opportunity. References required. Benefits available. “You workin’ hard today?” — exiting customer to writing author. “No, just passing through.” “I should start my own talk show.” “That Oprie Winters turns me off.
“Just to advertise her show, she was on one day with eight AIDS victims.” “You can get it now just from fleas and ticks.” DISTRIBUTED EVERY THURSDAY.
U.S. 84 panorama, exiting Taiban. Mesa commencement, butte continuation. Butterfly by author’s side sudden six-foot dip, then off-flight. T-phone lines reading white against silky, light blue horizonal sky. Trill of bird in vacant space. Down embankment, off-road mesquite, hardiness situation. Green/yellow-green field from eastern horizon upsweep, yellow wild flower interspersal. Single jet distant overflight. To-northward view:
Single t-phone pole, pasture entrance gate, a curving track up and over mounded earth to disappearance. Mid-ground 100-yard half-mile gully, ending in shelves of grey rock outcrop. Then intermediate range, a half to a mile and a half, reading as thin blue-green striation. Then shelf-ledge of horizonal rock which continues SE-NW, until it diminishes. At blackened, low peak — three miles distant — it transforms into a gentle descent.
Butterfly appearance, disappearance, re-appearance amid roar, whine, and wind-buffet of enormous pipe-laden truck. Landscape to NW begins with a wide blue band, shading down to cloudy blue to cloudy grey horizonal mist. A blue-to-purplish line where the earth meets the sky. Railroad, here in near-to-mid ground continuity, turning northward, its red embankment shaded by cloud, which changes sunlight to shadow as author writes.
A triple-engine Santa Fe arrives, its randomly interspersed train of cars in tow, making sound before it enters underpass, passing silently on into the distance, clickety-clacking briefly at the underpass exit. Dark blue pickup, baby blue cow trailer, up gravelly side-road, author regard. To left (southwest) of disappearing train: a vast sward of level/gently rising grassland; approaching autos appear as specks of barely discernible color. Thence, in WSW, to a Southern view: a massive uptilt of rising land, green (in the sunlight), darker green (in the clouds’ shadow), sweeping on to the East. Overhead sun in mighty cumulus circumstances.
Fort Sumner is a friendly western village where you can take a pleasant stroll along the historic Pecos River, or show your kids the grave of outlaw Billy the Kid. Instead of crime, though, you'll find here the World's Richest Tombstone Race. And wherever you go, you'll be greeted with a wave and a smile. So whether you’re seeking a new location for your business or just a friendly place to settle down, visit us in the Land of Enchantment.
Main Street (U.S. Route 60) view from Daviland’s wooden bench, brown painted, brown paint all but gone, “Sandy” over peace symbol, engraved with a knife (beside-author, opposite-direction). Midday overhead clearing, sky to west light blue down to 20 degrees, sky to east clear in the NE to 20 degrees, from east southward to 40 degrees, where fleecy clouds begin leading down to strato-cumulus, from there to a general horizonal murkiness.
Fort Sumner is located at the juncture of historical cattle trails, on a major railroad line, and at the crossroads of U.S. Routes 60, 84 and State Highway 20. Whereas many small towns in the area have disappeared, this little town has absorbed their service needs and takes advantage of its location, climate and progressive attitude to plan infrastructure for growth. Young people and retirees in the area attest to the desirability of its lifestyle.
Upstreet, across street: Tito’s Café, “Tito’s” in intermittent acidic green neon, “Café” in solid red neon, beneath them, in permanent black and white, “MEXICAN FOOD,” under which “Steaks.” Author’s burger delivery, medium Dr. Pepper. Between roadside and Tito’s, four wagon wheels: red, blue, red, blue. A painting, side of whitewashed building: Bull and Toreador, eclipsed, as author writes, by a white Ford pickup pulling into restaurant.
Santa Rosa Municipal Airport, Santa Rosa, New Mexico. Wind at near gale, buffeting red Honda so as to make author’s pen jiggle on the page. Sound of gasoline sloshing in tank, sound of wind against side window. Images of wind in purplish grasses surrounding municipal airport runway. Orange wind socket at 180 degrees, atop Philips 66 shield, the latter bouncing back and forth in the wind. A rig mounts crest of hill in direction of Fort Sumner.
Visually it clears a double gas pump at the one-room, one-window airway terminal, a single pole for a single light in front of it. Author approaches pumps reading “AVGAS 100 LL.” Nervous observation by manager a hundred yards distant, before his trailer home. Author drive-away indication; threat removed. Manager non-chalantly to green lawnmower; trying repeatedly to get it started; after in-shed inspection the mower remains motionless.
Hilltop overview, I-40: Truckstops of America, author seated behind lichen-encrusted, purplish sandstone, sun near zenith, parts of the carnival truck procession arriving. North of I-40 scenery upgrade, puffy smaller clouds over horizon. Western vista nearly cloud-free. Wind whipping author’s hair backward, ferociously energizing large American flag, whose flapping, 100 yards distant, dominates noisily idling trucks, flutters nearby grass.
Truckstop ports read “CARS” (two-bay), “TRUCKS” (eleven-bay). Loudspeaker plays recorded message advertising virtues/services of Truckstop of America. “All for 119.95.” Uproad: “Big Rig 24 hr. Truck Serv.,” two rigs parked for longer-term repairs. Municipal airport in mid-distance, day-glow orange socket still at 180-degree angle. Off western side of U.S. 84: sandstone shelves; atop one author sits in bracing breeze, broad landscape.
Retrospective Santa Rosa Motel Registry: Tower Motel, a depicted tower, yellow-painted, crenellated top; yellow into-motel arrow. La Loma Motel, red-painted corral fence around it. Western Motel, cowboy hat atop it, a “western” lasso, an arrow pointing in. Will Rogers, “Vacancy,” underneath which, three arrows: in red (top), orange (middle) and yellow (bottom). Motel Sunset (red letters, yellow ground). Motel Motor Inn (yellow brick).
Sun ‘n Sand (NM sunburst) Motel, each letter set in the feathers of an arrow, until the “l,” which forms the arrow’s point. Best Western’s Adobe Inn (adobe-less brick). Motel Shawford (“American Owned and Operated”). The undistinguished Ma and Pa Operated Motel, the La Mesa Motel (one and the same, first sign in red, white and blue, second, in red, yellow and black). The Plains Motel, arrowhead-shaped sign. “Lowest Rates, Cribs, Comfortable.”
Midafternoon author lowland cow-guard concrete base roadside sit. Red cab, white bed pickup hauls a large trailer past, on up “undeveloped” road, cresting onto a dusty landscape; disappearing. Roadside landscape return to near vacuity, near human-less habitation. Double strand of telephone lines alone cross the landscape, wind singing through the lines, its pitch increasing with intensity, whipping grains of sand into author’s eyes.
Tall grass overall-orchestrated rustle, symphonic movements elsewhere in the field. A bucket, its bottom rusted out; a bottle, its label weathered off; both at rest in the narrow run-off channel. At author’s feet: smaller vegetation joining in lesser sympathies with the wind-dance. An up-spike of grass blades, a single lavender-blossoming wildflower (in spasmodic, total-plant gestures); finely branched weed (motion in stalk, but at base, scarcely).
Road to Las Vegas, late afternoon view of new landscape type: blondness of sky, of grass, blondness of the road itself. Mesa activity on increase, flatness producing vast vistas. The roll of the horizon is gentle-delicate, but by no means simple. Heated atmosphere produces backlit clouds, imaginary touched-in features, pufflets higher up. Roadside grass in steady NE-ward flutter: purple, orange, yellow wildflower clumps hidden in deeper green.
The lightness of the grass (its thinness and its coloration) extends out to the eastern horizon, which is also mesa-filled, in extreme grey-lavender distances. Straight ahead appears a “planned” vision, a single, symmetrically balanced mesa, its extension to the left, its extension to the right, the latter leading to snow-capped peaks in Santa Fe’s proximity. A sudden school bus rush-by, wind thump; green car from opposite direction thunder-through.
Landscape with junkyard, San Agustin, sun declining but still above 30 degrees in the West. The Plains of San Agustin (sometimes written Plains of San Augustin) are found in the San Agustin Basin, south of U.S. Highway 60. Wind die-out to moderate gust level. They are located in Catron and Socorro Counties, about 50 miles (80 km) west of the town of Socorro and about 25 miles north of Reserve. Author’s back supported by new Honda tire.
The plains extend roughly northeast-southwest, to a length of about 55 miles (88 km) and a width varying between 5-15 miles (8-24 km). His car casting shade on roadside. The basin is bounded on the south by the Luera Mountains and the Pelona Mountains (outliers of the Black Range). Clumped cedars; singlets, seedlings. On the west, by the Tularosa Mountains; on the north by the Mangas, Crosby, Datil and Gallinas Mountains.
Easy grazing grass with occasional straw-colored up-clumps. And on the east by the San Mateo Mountains. Higher reaches in tufty scrub, rock outbreak, leading to dotted scrub oak. The Continental Divide lies close to much of the southern and western boundaries of the plains. Throughpass for Interstate, half natural declivity, half cut-constructed. UFO researchers such as Stanton Friedman allege that the plains are the site of a UFO crash in 1947.
A clump of stream-fed deciduous, willowy, cottonwoods follows the road, which follows the railroad’s larger, more gracious arc. It occurred, according to witnesses, the same time as the famous Roswell Incident. Interstate traffic is headed to Santa Fe, over whose passage a gentle double monad one mile distant, tails out into a more distant cone, then transforms into wide-ranging mountains in green and smoky green, curvaceously double and pleasing.
Amidst all this in near-, mid-ground, a white mobile home, a dirty irregular picket fence semi-surrounding it. Beyond the original house, still occupied, a clothesline a-flap in late afternoon, lowland breeze, a satellite dish (beige, like the color of the house), catches the sky’s signals. The plains are probably best known as the site of the Very Large Array, the famous radio astronomy observatory. A single red sedan is parked before the house.
Beginning before the mobile home’s picket fence is a compound of 29 automobile corpses. The plains were chosen for the observatory due to their isolation, away from large population centers. One has its hood missing, its door sprung open. And the partial shielding effect of the surrounding mountain ranges. Light glints off chrome bumpers, door handles, a pair of headlights. The edges of the plains have sites of archaeological interest.
A flock of yellow-breasted, brown-winged, western meadowlarks in a sudden up-rush into a nearby field. Such as a prehistoric rock shelter known as Bat Cave. Their song continues. Other sites in the area include a ghost town called Old Horse Springs and the Ake Site, a prehistoric occupation site. The wind up-quickening. Geologically, the Plains of San Agustin lie within the Mogollon-Datil volcanic field, just south of the Colorado Plateau.
Pre-dawn Santa Fe-ward Milky Way star-scatter observation. West of the Rio Grande Rift Valley. Heavenly spur behind mountain makes mountain a part of it. The basin is a graben (a down-dropped block between parallel faults). Distant stars reading as near, near as distant, a truck rushing past, the white of headlights in rear view mirror turning to red of taillights, receding. The graben is younger than the Datil-Mogollon volcanic eruptions.
Author head-on view of Big Dipper down the road (or falling onto it), held for dipping. The floor of the plains was created by a Pleistocene lake (Lake San Agustin). Still-pre-dawn arrival at Glorietta, NM Baptist Conference Center, its tower in yellow, white and green light, surrounding electric lights of Glorietta. Although the graben has dropped an estimated 4,000 feet, the surface relief has been reduced to about 2,000 feet, by sedimentation.
Its environs reading as beneath a belted dome of starlight, intergalactic spaces made clear by the clarity of the skies. A great deal of the sediments entered the San Agustin basin prior to the formation of Lake San Agustin in the last glacial period. The dome overwhelming, so populous and diverse, whole populations receding as others approach, clouds of starry vagueness, points of specificity, their intensity, their variation in color, unnerving.
There is no evidence of tectonic activity in the area after Lake San Agustin had become extinct. The Milky Way. Ecologically, the plains lie near the northernmost end of the Chihuahuan Desert. Adrift, in and out of Time. (Though the ranges surrounding the Gila River headwaters intervene.) Adumbrating the Other. Which is dominated by shrublands. The Otherness of a larger, self-sustaining, environs dwarfing the Geological.
Pre-dawn coffee, Dolly Madison doughnut, Española Plateau convenience store/gas station. Author standing at orange plastic-topped counter. Middle-aged female Hispanic clerk, winged spider-web designs on jeans pockets, blue-striped blouse, assistant — nineteen-year-old Hispanic girl in braces — stacking Pepsis in ice box. Enormous convex mirrors situated opposite one another at store’s entrance, far corner, author not visible in either.
To cash a Travelers Check he is asked for his driver’s license. An even younger clerk, embarrassed at having required identification, asks, “Where are you going?” “Tierra Amarillo.” “You got family there?” “No.” “It’s nice up in the mountains.” Author nods. “You like it?” she adds. “I haven’t been there yet.” Clerk blushes. “When you get back, tell me how you liked it?” “OK,” says author. Radio: “The Power has come to New Mexico.”
Still pre-dawn landscape, U.S. 84, after 285 turnoff. Route to Chama, Tierra Amarillo. Author standing by roadside, leaning against Honda hood, temp. last seen: 42 degrees Fahrenheit. Slight breeze, sound of cowbells, first rooster, auto highway ascent. Straight-on view of Venus, at 10 degrees, in eastern sky. Purple mountain gentle NE-ward up-thrust, body of purple range declining to SW. Near ridge, beginning beneath Venus, reads as silhouette.
Three cottonwood branches visually reach above the ridge, touch the edge of purple mountain. At author’s feet, entrance to farmer’s drive, which first descends through a wooden gate, then gently rises, its two tracks taking more light than surrounding grass. Light slowly begins to reveal mobile homes in the landscape. Wind too quickening. Clouds catch first of yellowing rays on their white underbellies. Author seeks car-interior warmth.
Post-dawn, pre-sunrise panorama, intersection U.S. 84 and N.M. 96. Birds in chirpage, plus respondent chirps. Author facing westward toward single newly-leafed-out cottonwood, bank-side of arroyo, recently cultivated, in U.S. 84 pavement enlargement project, southern exposure: grey floating knife-shaped cloud, pufflets spewing off it to the east. Sweet grey distant horizonal silhouette against orange-raspberry, faintly tinged grey-blue sky.
Southeast view: head-lighted camper approach up 84, a single horse trailer passing, light-green-tinted deciduous trees, darker at the center, clouds ending at t-phone poles in the mid-ground (reading only faintly brown). Eastward near-ground arroyo continuation. NE view of magnificently suave, Fan Kuan axe-cut and dotted, mountain, a shelf in nearer ground beautifully eroded. Beneath which more deciduous trees, reading larger because closer.
Pre-sunrise view of Abiquiu (Abiquiú, Navajo Haagizh), author in-car writing, red brake light registering on dash, heater flooding compartment. It is a small unincorporated town located in Rio Arriba County, in northern New Mexico about 53 miles (85 km) north of Santa Fe. Multiple landscapes in and about the town: view of bluffs to NW, through, under, above trees. In the 1730s, it was the third largest settlement in the New Mexico Territory. Up-road view to north, sandstone scaling off several-mile distant cliffs. Artist Georgia O’Keeffe lived there from 1949 until her death in 1986 at 98. Graduated grey-beiges in interval.
Up over “General Merchandise,” “EXXON” (in blood red-on-white ground, blue bar), a glistening black pole, an arched cockscomb of red sandstone. “N Mex” sunburst reading off Historic marker, gold center, red rays. “Abiquiu was established on the site of an abandoned Indian pueblo.” It is also the location where the opening shot of the 4th Indiana Jones movie Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull occurs. Large shagged cottonwood, down along the NE view, mesquite beneath it. Says the Blu-Ray disc: “On June 16, 2007, the production’s second unit crew was on location near Abiquiu, New Mexico.”
“In 1838 the settlement became one of the stops.” “Filming the traditional Indiana Jones opening shot of a ‘mountain (in this case a prairie dog mound).’” Roadside mesquite encumbered with aluminum pie plate. “On a Spanish trail, which linked Santa Fe.” Two styrocups, a Coke can. Other notable films shot in Abiquiu are Cowboys & Aliens, City Slickers, Red Dawn, Wyatt Earp, The Last Outlaw and the TV series Earth 2. Unidentified wads of paper, parts of cartons, broken bottles, plastic detritus. A Frito Lay potato chip bag caught in a branch. With the sun not yet over horizon, author decides to leave, return to nature.
From nature’s point of view, the sun is already resplendent, bathing the mountain in its munificence. The air, however, is still chilly. Author gazes at a flattened peak topped with a random but withal shapely corona of shaded grey structures, which mound up in a desultory way only to stretch out and lose intensity, returning us to the central mountain mass, its graceful, elongated northeasterly downward slope, its more difficult southeasterly accumulations, transceptions of energy, rocky rhythms and smooth gestures, higher up, its rhythms re-projected in a cachet of olive green, subtly textured but atmospherically smooth.
Farther downroad author stops to take a seat in flourishing weeds, his back resting against a rust-red-painted stanchion for a roadside picnic table’s architectural cover, his feet (in rust-red-boots) resting on new grey gravel, for a direct view of the rust-red lithic spectacle spread out in front of him. Though there still is no direct sunlight, the view’s spectacularities have emerged already, drawing upon light from around the corner of its central mass, light already too bright — its indirect light — to view straight on. Taken in glimpses, it forms first a hemisphere of influence, thereby creating a white retinal shield of energetic intensity.
It then forces into silhouette what is brightly enough lit to read as a red sandstone bluff, whose face seems not to be arrested in the throw-down of boulder, slab, stone and rocky detritus. Yet nothing moves. To the north: an adjacent sister growth, the light elegantly raking its sharp 30-foot shelves. Its structure appears tri-partite: lower range; mid-level detritus; then a subtle pale-green-growth-covered range. Finally an undulating up-thrust.
“Trail of the Echo.” “Echo Amphitheater, seen behind this sign, is a short ten minute walk from here, with local geology, plants and other phenomena along the way interpreted for your enjoyment.” Author’s body-shadow on mesquite, head shadow on Arizona cypress. Interpretation: Early morning sun at his back. Clouds arising, as from other side of mountain, drift in diagonal up and off, never fully reaching the mountain’s top. Interpretation: The face of the mystery is in layers of yellow-beige, grey-beige, red-grey sandstone, an intermittent cap of gravelly grey. Footbridge over arroyo, sign reading “Wet Paint.”
Interpretation: Bridge recently painted. Emergent view to NE of “turreted” sandstone cliff face, “towering” above. Interpretation: Life for most is metaphorical. U.S. Department of Agriculture Carson National Forest. Explanation board: Ground in brown, illustration in grey, beige, cream. (1) TODILTO FORMATION: “Nearly 100 million years ago this area lay under a shallow sea. The formation is composed of limestone.” (2) ENTRADA FORMATION: “It tells us that winds 150 million years ago deposited sand as dunes, which later metamorphosed into a rock mass. Its layers of deposition now form an ‘amphitheater.’”
(3) CHINLE FORMATION: “From the red dirt slopes we learn that dinosaurs and dense forests existed here 250 million years ago. The soils of the surrounding area are derived from this formation.” Interpretation: Wit and verbal skills will not suffice for immortality and may not even prevail in the short term. Trees have taken root up on the vast extent of the Chinle Formation, expressing hardihood, severe beauty and chance. (4) WHITE THROATED SWIFT (picture instead of text). Interpretation perhaps through graffiti: “Bill / Bill.” “Lion Rock.” (Cribbed from “The formation on the top of the cliff before you resembles a lion.”)
Tierra Amarillo, upwards of 7,000 feet, town-square-approach view: Deserted Mexican-style filling station: “CANDY / CIGS / POPS” on stand before a white building with green trim. Clouds dissipating, as if too high in the sky. Everything is crisp, a little debilitated by the mountain air/ambiance. Courthouse ahead, an American flag at center of its roof, small in scale. White dump truck parked by beige structure, as though part of the composition. On out a row of corrugated roofs to a square two-story house with pyramidal roof, square habitable turret, another pyramidal roof. Yellow school bus seen turning into the main road.
U.S. 64/84 divide. The upland serenity grand? Or merely blank? Piñon pine long since having given way to aspen, aspen to lumber pine, lumber pine to Engleman. Red sandstone drama to beige sedimentary hauteur. A single view encompasses 180 degrees, nothing in this of Switzerland, nothing of Colorado. The region is its own. Even the sun-struck midmorning clay embankment is cool to the touch, grasses sparse. Weeds scarcely existent.
The untrafficked highway bends through the near-to-mid-ground, as-yet-unweathered telephone poles carrying a paucity of messages. A single electric line beneath meets all the community’s needs. No geologic tales here of rupture, fissure, collapse. All instead seemingly handled for the occasion, though this cannot be true. (The same processes, negative or expansive, throughout the system.) Beyond the shallowness of pure blue sky: the stars.
Jicarilla Shopping Center, Apache Indian Reservation, United States Post Office, Dulce, New Mexico 87528. Swarthy women in pants, tee shirts, jackets, fancy running shoes, entering the post office, some remaining to stare out its window, perhaps awaiting a ride; dark (tinted) glasses, no glasses; smile (narrow), smile (broad). White woman, extravagantly got-up in colored clothes, enters, leaves quickly. Older Apache man enters in straw cowboy hat, blue jeans, blue windbreaker; exits hacking, leaves in beige Ford pickup. Apache male, 28, athletic shirt with hood; fancy modern slack jeans, enters adjacent Jicarilla Chieftain Office:
Gold screen-blinds behind glass office front, fancy white-on-black window decorations (feathers, teepees, clouds). A single red sedan remains, in a whole row of post office visitors’ vehicles, including four motorbikes, a horse. Young Apache brave engages pigtailed 20-year-old female in bright blue athletic pants, white shirt, matching blue and white socks. She, though, has her aged grandma in tow and thus little time for romantic conversation.
Aztec Ruins Museum. “There are two types of kivas, great kivas and ordinary kivas.” “Many artifacts cannot be positively identified,” e.g., a piece of shaped sandstone, “possibly used as a lid”; a display of unworked ore, which “may have been part of a medicine’ man’s kit”; a large stone with grooves [no interpretation offered]. Tour guide: “Well good afternoon, how are you doing today?” Eighty per cent of the kids in the audience are people of color. “To start with,” says the guide, “Aztec has nothing to do with the Mexican Aztecs.” Prehistoric Pueblo Indians (Anasazi display) considered for a moment. “They were pretty successful.”
“To the Museum”; “To the Ruins”; “To Information and Parking.” An outlined hand depicted on video screen, eerie music. “The Center of the Pueblo Universe.” “This is sacred land. Echoes of a distant time retell its stories.” “Then, 800 years ago, they mysteriously slipped away.” Tour guide counting all the kids in his audience. Sound of wolves. A darling Apache girl shares her seat with a half-breed; a black girl takes a seat between two blond girls.
Ruins trail, the sound of put-putting mower, odor of enormous fragrant sage bushes under cottonwoods. Indian man in orange jumpsuit, white cap. Ruins steps, mounted, reveal second orange jumpsuited, goggled Indian man at work with weed eater. “Hey, Freddy,” he yells, “need some more gas,” language mistaken for Apache, words repeated. Bracing ether enveloping site. Field of regularly planted fruit trees, cows contentedly grazing among them.
“Low Door,” to underground room-by-room inspection. Emergent author confronting white Cushman hand-truck, Dutch-speaking couple. Second lecture on topic of these unexceptional, (rather than interesting) buildings. “The rooms weren’t so dreary-looking, when the Indians lived here” — Apache tour guide. This group proportionally higher in white kids. Large circular kiva, though, of considerable interest: design quite elegant, siting well-considered.
“Farmington Founded 1876.” The San Juan, Las Animas and La Plata Rivers meet here. Main Street early morning view, sun blinding autos as they approach, casting Honda shadow on gravel of Valley Scrap Metal lot (“We Pay Cash,” silver on blue). Coffee drinking Indian down sidewalk with cup in hand, her heavy plaid shirt over sweater against early cold. Across-street Copper Penny Cut-Rate Liquors (“First Annual Roughladies Contest”).
The 2010 U.S. Census reported Farmington’s population as 45,877. The city is located on the Colorado Plateau in one of the largest counties in the U.S., covering 5,538 square miles (14,340 km2). The county seat, and the other city in San Juan County, is Aztec. Farmington, which serves as the commercial hub for northwestern New Mexico and the Four Corners region of four states, lies at the junction of U.S. Routes 550, 64 and N.M. 371.
Main Street (Route 550), 7:00 am survey: Three yellow Ryder trucks parked facing out, lot of “T E X A C O” station, each letter of its sign in a separate square, “Roy Grimes, Owner.” La Mañana (black on white), Mexican (green) Restaurant (red), amateur-painted “Mexican Foods” (red, on yellow ground), two spray-painted green cacti. Before the sign a black truck cab, red wheels, is stationed. View through lot of “4 States Casing, Inc.”
The primary industries of San Juan County are the mining of petroleum, natural gas, and coal. Major coal mines include the Navajo and San Juan mines, operated by BHP Billiton 15 to 19 miles (24 to 31 km) southwest of Farmington. The coal mined from the Navajo and San Juan mines is used entirely as fuel for the nearby Four Corners Generating Station and the San Juan Power Plant for the purpose of producing electrical power.
View to top of river bluff receiving bright sunlight at 7:20, hiding its beams in shadows. A lot filled with pickups, tanker trucks, an RV, two natural gas tanks. Next door: “Peerless Tyre Co.,” a single-story concrete block in baby blue with deep red doors. Draped across its front: white, red and blue pennants. A single, silver propeller plane, making its way from NW to SE, enters the wispy ends of a cloud bank, the breathy clouds dissolving.
Farmington is known across the Southwest for its baseball tournaments. Golden Dragon / Cocktails; McDonalds; Taco Bell. Farmington High School has claimed the AAAA Baseball State Championship four years in a row. A dirty American flag, tattered, “76” in its starfield. The site of an underground nuclear detonation in 1967 called Project Gasbuggy, part of the defunct Operation Plowshare, was held in the Carson National Forest.
Diamond Shamrock station, grey sedan parked by its brown side wall. This project was designed to break up a large volume of bedrock to free up natural gas for extraction. Its owner is lifting the car’s hood. The Navajo Indian Reservation is located west of town, the Ute Mountain Reservation, to the northwest, and the Southern Ute Indian Reservation, to the northeast. A white sedan exits the lot past gasoline prices in red numerals.
Old downtown approach, past ancient wooden Farmington Lumber and Hardware, yellow door attached to side of white painted building (in advertisement). Prehistoric Native American ruins are located nearby. “Lloyd’s Carpets and Draperies”; “The Attic / Indian Jewelry,” a Rocky Mountain maple tree jutting out into Main Street. The Aztec Ruins National Monument and the Salmon Ruins are located just to the northeast and the east of town.
Across-street storefronts in yellow brick, tan plaster, buff brick with mauve over-painting; a brown inward-tilted building with a yellow awning; a building in brick painted pink. Mesa Verde National Park lies about 40 miles (64 km) to the northwest. Two Indian males dressed in black are walking together upstreet. Chaco Culture National Historical Park is about 50 miles (80 km) to the southeast. Drunk, they gently sway from side to side.
The people of Farmington have been the subject of several civil rights investigations. A 70-year-old white man, cowboy hat, paunchy belly in grey cowboy shirt, stands momentarily at the corner to light up a cigarette, cupping his hands. Including the 2005 document. A limping 60-year-old Indian man, straw hat, blue jacket. The Farmington Report: Civil Rights for Native Americans 30 Years Later. Squints at the sun as he heads eastward.
Highland hilltop, N.M.-44-to-Cuba roadside-observation stop, chilly sun occlusion. Gently rolling terrain mustered out in sage green, broom yellow, spiky green grasses, straw tassels. Landscape punctuated with distant silver storage tanks (for natural gas), water towers. Mid-ground bands of green, light (sun-struck) green, dark (cloud-covered) green; sun-struck buff patches, to distant bands of blue-grey, smoky-grey, the latter extending to the snow-covered mountains of the NE. Clouds in attractive, orchestrated display of wisp dissipation on high, gentle grey in-shading lower down, to final grey, white swirls, cerulean sky.
Nearby silver-painted tank, its maroon undercoating showing through, awaiting an uncertain fate within a barb-wire-enclosed compound. A ladder has been attached to its side. Double telephone-pole display over double, white Quonset hut, orange barrels stacked six high. Yellow-orange NM-State pick-up trucks; a private turquoise pickup parked with its side facing author. A new grey one, pink-striped, headed out; an older white one headed in.
“Dzilth-Ne-O-Dith-Hle Indian Health Center,” sign facing a sacred mountain to the NE. Across-road view: blue steel, white plinth; oncoming cars, Route 44; field of sage sloping up to a mile-distant building. A naviform peak in majestic posture extends its flange to a small mound; continues to a ridged outcrop; to a mesa construct, to a second ridge; declines. In the foreground a silver, graffiti-covered tank, an electrical grey box. A-half mile to the ENE: a serenely silvered, grey tower. “Welcome to OCS / Home of the Fighting Mustangs,” couchant mustangs in the corners. “SLOW / CHILDREN / AT / PLAY,” the “AT” altered to read “FAT.”
Southern Union Refining Company — steady hum-whoosh, occasional gust — Lybrook Plant. Fifteen tanks, bulbous-nosed, thirteen white, last two silver, the first four ladderless but with white escape stacks (the last nine blue). Sunburst through clouds begins to warm up scene, refinery sun-glinted with silver highlights. The dull cylinders are ranged like irregular organ pipes, each with a secondary conduit, a catwalk valve, a different length.
The power plant in corrugated-steel is square, surrounded on four sides by more white-painted tanks, valves, pipe, tubing. Overhead, a cloud mass frames the scene. Down-road a school bus pauses, its right turn blinking. One white pickup ascends perpendicular to another. A blue-hatted Indian driver prepares to head downroad, waving at author, whose Navaho hitchhiker, 45, a miner, a farmer, a railroad worker, fidgets in front seat of author’s car.
Cuba, NM, Town & Country Store. Apache mom in pink pants, blue embroidered sweater, daughter in pink top, white pants. Navahos sitting on low wall, across street, in mid-morning workday traffic observation. One in a white cap (its back half blue), a blue windbreaker and Levis; another in a yellow shirt, khakis and cowboy boots. A third — a woman — turns to look at the second. A fourth stands apart from the group, in long hair, black shirt and grey pants. Hispanics entering the Post Office parking lot in early ’70s models, Indians, in ’60s models (a Cutlass Supreme, a Ford Landau). A white woman exiting in an ’86 Nissan.
Kountry Kwik Shop, roadside landscape with red-and-white-cabbed flatbed. Rain threat mounting, bulby down-drooped dark grey clouds, wispy lighter-grey-textured overlay. In the upper reaches, a mottling, a striation, an indeterminate interpenetration of greys, grey-whites and whites. Lithlically speaking: a butte with pyramidal stone peg as centerpiece, orange, grey-layered, pine-capped. A roseate, irregular pyramid entering behind, on the next butte over, it heavily forested. Over which a low exit from overbearingly grey cloudiness; cumulus moundings with a background of very pale blue. Flatbed departure, pickup replacement.
Abiquiu Dam construction site, water through-flow: white to dark green to murky green; dark and light eddies inter-tangled. “Beep-beep” of mile-distant backing-up front loader, roar-grind of ascending pale green dump truck, heavily laden. A worker-bearing brown sedan descending. Wind up-gust, 45 degrees Fahrenheit, motioning through a field of yellow wild flowers. A brown, striated, three-electric-pole-topped cliff, in near ground.
Roaring green dump truck continuation, wind quickening further, its force jostling author. In the construction site below: two dozen workers’ cars, pickups; two prefab sheds; an office; a red crane disassembled; yellow earth-moving equipment. Above, a hundred-yard-long dirt platform, already built, a road leading up to it, atop which rests another disassembled crane, its derrick in yellow, a grey cloud overhanging it. Author to Honda re-ascent.
Torrential rapids observation from writing situation, atop volcanic two-ton boulder, at river’s edge. Overhead: grey mottling of heroic proportions, huge cotton daubs disintegrating into a general murkiness. The canyon’s rim, a cockscomb of striated conglomerate, is covered with light green vegetation — author brief removal to challenge dark-skinned local fisherman’s inspection of vacated Honda — over-spersed with dark green sage dustings.
Down-rushing water is a dance of uncontrolled choreography, the world’s largest bath draining to no visible end. The eye leaps upward ten feet to yet-more-rapid waters, thence downward stepwise as they tumble over a three-foot drop, a two-foot, yet another, into a level 20-foot basin, swirling, purling, impelled by their own force, spewing out lace, erupting from with-under, separating, regrouping, jumbling, proceeding toward a final calm.
High mountain fir-spruce forestation, snow incompletely melted from needle-strewn floor. Chipped shale, still slowly chipping. Swirls of faulting in roadside cut-through. Quaking aspens; straining buds not yet open. Single timber pines emerging from among their mates. Beneath which, the yellowy, willowy greens of upland meadows, all a-tilt. Caw of crow, two-foot wing-span overhead-passage. Chirp of smaller birds in springtime conjugality.
A stream quickly descends to fill a mossy pond, descends farther. The sun peeks through in the western sky, at 70 degrees, its massive stasis cinematically deposed, operatically orchestrated with black-bellied greys beneath a Tiepolo blue. Downrange “sci-fi” drift into mountain harmonics, mounded-fir-growth, hillocks giving way to languorous slopes, avenues of relief over-sweeping a mid-ground of continuous, chilly, but pretty, pines. Rabbit scurry-past.
Springer-to-Miami-to-Cimarron progress, on N.M. 199: Six miles out of Miami, author pauses to observe a second butte, lavender flowers blossoming in the right-of-way. On to the massive stucco arch of Vallejo Polo Ranch. Within another hour we enter a mountain range, pass a sizeable lake, continue to skirt ranches and arrive on a plain, pausing at the Philmont Scout Ranch, where a plaque celebrates “Self-reliance, Integrity and Freedom.”
At the junction of 199 and U.S. 64 we reach Cimarron, whose most outstanding feature is the triangular pediment of its elementary school, lettered in competent Roman style on a brick ground with bright blue trim, windows, doors and classrooms symmetrically ranged (from within, florescent lights glow, three clocks all reading 10:17). Behind and rising over the schoolyard’s Rocky Mountain maples is an imposing butte. Uproad, the Cimarron Motel.
Junction U.S. 64 / Interstate 25, outskirts of Raton, landscape with road signs, entering vehicles. Author seated atop Honda hood, cowboy boots on front bumper, worn Levis, tee-shirt, two button-down shirts over it. The midday sun has brought the temperature up to 60 degrees. A landscape filled with two buttes occupies his attention, interrupted by automotive voices: a Denver-bound Americruiser 2, a bright blue Travelall. He returns to the view:
A solid mass to the NW concludes the buttes, over which low-mounded grey, flat-bellied cumulus, barb-wire fence in sudden perspective-diminution. At the center of this scene traffic on the more distant Interstate moves in both directions: the approach of a red cattle truck filled with a dozen head, followed at once by a red-and-white pickup pulling a blue horse trailer, one horse facing forward, the other backward. Signs for Interstate 25 (“North” / “South”).
Outlying Plum Street, Raton view of mesa, butte-surround, cloud mass recently described now deepening its menace. U.S. 87 restaurant inventory under gathering storm clouds: “GULF Food and Travel Stop”; “Dairy Queen” (“brazier” in trapezoid beneath); “All Seasons FAMILY RESTAURANT”; “McDonald’s” (“drive thru”); “Sands”; “Kentucky Fried Chicken” (red-and-white-striped bucket with Col. Saunders’ portrait); “Carrousel Restaurant” (“Home Made Food”), the main sign in white-on-red, black-bordered; the parenthetical, in red letters, black Mexican drop shades, yellow ground. Overhead change to puffy clouds.
Exiting Raton, blue sky perfection, author, windshield bumble-bee bounce-off, scrapes thin line of fluid residue, smells finger, tastes honey. Butte co-ordination with cloud, highway, grassland, chain-link fence. At end of converging highway, notes on a mountain-mesa; high up, a lips-of-bliss formation; accompanying puffs. To NNE: over single nearby vegetation range, two clouds, back-to-back, one white, the other dark grey, both against background of intensely lit white, which nonetheless shades northward into light grey, darker grey, holding before it another conglomerate grey-white, grey-on-white mass. Forward vista clear.
The approach, under slight pufflets hovering about the mesa, is humming with background sound, emanating from a cattle truck descended from the Interstate to park on the shoulder of the state highway, the approach to which is decorated with evenly-spaced clumps of foliage, the asphalt’s edge hemmed in by emerald grass and a white-painted line, plus a yellow “Danger” diamond with the black silhouette of a heavily-uddered cow in profile.
Over-highway railway whistle, approaching train, engine emergence (black on green) of Burlington Northeastern. Yellow “Restaurant” on black ground, monolithic red-brick/white-bay simplicity. White cloud, blue sky, pale green grass. Over-black-asphalt freight-train car-by-car identical emergence (fronts and backs rust-colored, open bottoms painted black). There follows: repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition.
Restaurant interior, polite reception: “Hamburger, lettuce, tomato, fries.” “Would you like some ice tea or coffee?” “Ice tea, please.” Pleasant smile. “No mustard or pickle, please.” “We’ll just bring them, you put them on yourself.” Foursquare brown tables, beige menus, brown type-composed categories: “Mexican Food,” “Cowboy’s Delight,” “Homemade Sandwiches,” “On the Light Side.” Through-window view of mare, stallion, colt, frolicking in corral.
Author-toward down-range procession of walking cattle, only stragglers pausing to gaze, in a field sprinkled with white flowers. Herd in single, double, triple file. The black leader, about to ford a dry streambed, stops, her role resumed by a second black, followed by more cows of the same color, then a white-faced brown and a herd of seven blacks. Two white cows nuzzle, then separate to graze. A white, a black and a white-faced brown turn their heads in three directions. The group as a whole represents an interaction of still-standing, heads-down, and feet-walking, none of the cows taking any interest whatsoever in scribbling author.